Nigeria’s upper court upholds judgement on exclusive operation of domestic airport by MMA2 operators
WorldStage Newsonline-- THE Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, has ordered the Federal Government, its agents or privies to totally hands off the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2), Lagos, operated by Bi-Courtney Limited.
The Federal Government had appealed against the judgement of Justice Anwuli Chikere of an Abuja High Court, delivered on March 3, 2009, which ordered it to stop the operations of domestic flights in or out of Lagos from any other airport other than MMA2, except if such airport is owned by Bi-Courtney Limited.
Besides, Justice Chikere, in his ruling, also stopped the Federal Government from building any other airport terminal in Lagos, while ordering it to account for all the revenues it had collected from domestic flight operations in Lagos outside MMA2 since the new terminal became operational on May 7, 2007.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, the Federal Government, however, headed to the appellate court, where it lost out on Wednesday.
Counsel to Bi-Courtney, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), had argued that the government appealed the trial court judgement on the excuse that the AGF failed to compile and transmit the trial court record as required by the Appeal Court rules, asking the appellate court to throw out the appeal.
In a unanimous judgment, the three-man panel led by Justice Zainab Bukachuwa, said the government did not transmit the record of the trial (at the lower court) within 30 days, if a court registrar failed to do so within the first 60 days after delivery of judgement, adding that “the applicant (Federal Government) is entitled to ask for an extension of time after the 90 days which, the applicant did not do.
“It is not an optional duty; the rule of the court must be obeyed because it is mandatory.”
Justice Bukachawa, in dismissing the appeal, added: “When the rules of the court are specifically spelt out, the parties have no other duty than to comply with such rules. Besides, there was no application for an extension of time by the appellant.
“The notice of appeal was filed in June 2009; the Registrar by the rules of this court has 60 days within which to transmit the records of appeal. Rules of court are made to be obeyed and when there is no compliance, the court would have no choice than to dismiss the appeal.
“This appeal is hereby dismissed with no cost awarded to both sides. I make no order as to cost.
Bi-Courtney Limited had dragged the Federal Government to court for his failure to implement a concession agreement entered into over MMA2 on April 24, 2003.
The concession agreement says that all airlines operating scheduled domestic flights in and out of Lagos must operate from MMA2.
The agreement also says that within the concession period of 36 years effective 2003, Bi-Courtney must collect all levies and charges from scheduled domestic flights in and out of Lagos.
The concessioning came about after the old Local Airport was gutted by fire in 2001, which totally destroyed it, leaving the Federal Government with no option than to close it down.
The government consequently signed a concession agreement with Bi-Courtney on April 24, 2003 to design, build and operate MMA2 and any other terminal in Lagos for 36 years for the firm to recoup its investment.
The Federal Government and its agents in the aviation sector have, however, ignored some provisions of the agreement, forcing Bi-Courtney to go to the Federal High Court, where it floored the government.